Behind the Headlines – April 12, 2019

Behind the Headlines – April 12, 2019


– (female announcer)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines
is made possible in part by: the WKNO Production Fund, the WKNO Endowment Fund, and by viewers like you,
thank you. – Memphis 3.0 the legacy of
red lining and much more, tonight on Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes, president
and executive editor of The Daily Memphian,
thanks for joining us. I’m joined this week by a
round table of journalists starting with Ryan
Poe, a columnist for the Commercial Appeal
thanks for being here again. – Thank you for having me. – Madeline Faber, editor
of High Ground News, thanks for being here again. – Thanks. – And Bill Dries, reporter
with The Daily Memphian. So let’s start with,
we’re gonna talk through a bunch of interrelated things
that are going on right now including a really great series
that High Ground is doing on redlining right now,
and a map of redlining that we’ll look at in a minute, and Memphis 3.0
has hit some small, I think most people
would say small hiccups and also EDGE and the tax
incentives are expanding and in some ways thematically
they’re all related, let’s start thematically
though where are we with Memphis 3.0? We had John Zeanah and
a number of other people involved with it just
a couple weeks ago and it seemed like
it was smooth sailing through council but it’s
hit some roadblocks. – It’s hit a couple of
roadblocks none of which appear to be anything like
doing away with the plan but there are some delays. A delay by the Memphis
city council on the first of three readings, this
is after a group from north Memphis came
to the council and said we weren’t
consulted on this plan. The part of the plan that
deals with north Memphis and we want you to consider
what we want to do. It’s a very specific plan that
a community development corporation there
has put forward and then at the
same time you had some city council members
who didn’t have that specific objection but who said, how does this work with
our process for approving developments that come to us? What does this add to it, does
it conflict with anything, any of the
recommendations we get now from planning and development? So they decided to take
time for a public meeting in north Memphis, to
take in the input, see if they want to change
the plan or the recommendation on it and then vote on the
first of three readings. – Ryan, and we’ll start with
Ryan and then go to Madeline, on the plan the opposition
plan was in part from this group from new
Chicago that Bill referenced, Carnita Atwater is one of
the people in charge of that and some issues have
been brought up with her. Two non-profits she was
involved in lost their status, there’s a very difficult
court case that she’s named in, civil probate
courts where she has been asked to return
a bunch of money. So that maybe sheds some
doubt on her as the leader of this opposition, I
think you wrote a column in the 901 though saying
there may be some questions about her, but that the
issues she’s raising still need to be
discussed, is that fair? – The issues she’s raising
are bigger than her and they are issues that
are gonna be top of mind I think going into
the mayoral election. You have mayor, former
Mayor Willie Herenton Shelby County
Commissioner Tami Sawyer running against
Mayor Jim Strickland and they have both
pointed out that parts of Memphis have seemingly
been left behind by the cities momentum, that
Mayor Strickland has brought up and I think that’s
really gonna be the, one of the key focuses of
the election going forward is just you know how
does Memphis momentum, how does Memphis move
forward for all Memphians and not just certain
parts of Memphis, and Mayor Strickland has
said that he acknowledges that problem as well. – Yeah I mean he opened
his campaign in Whitehaven, he has been trying
to be everywhere, and 3.0 for those who
don’t follow as closely as we all do, is a
kind of strategic plan and a guide, 600 page I
mean it’s hundreds of pages and it goes through
the city neighborhood by neighborhood, area by area, and says here’s the roadmap
for each of these areas and how it fits individually
in these neighborhoods now and how it rolls together
and has I think seven or so anchor areas that are
sort of primary areas for redevelopment
including north, south, east and west of Memphis. Again, that’s the folks
who are supporters and behind it would say. Your thoughts on this again
Madeline in terms of this, and ultimately it
gets to redlining. It’s hard not to get
to that in the stories you all have done on the
history of redlining. But your thoughts on some of
the questions being raised on Memphis 3.0. – Yeah so I agree
with that aspect of Ryan’s take that, the
issues about Dr. Atwater’s business dealings, her
personal dealings should, I mean we should write about
them but they shouldn’t detract from what she’s
saying which is I don’t feel like my voice was heard, I
don’t feel like my community has been recognized and I
don’t trust this process which is probably more wide-
spread than we really realize. I mean as you said the
3.0 master document is 600 whatever pages with
indexes and addendums. I mean I didn’t like to read it, and I have to do this right? Can you imagine all the
residents of Memphis who are presented
with this document that they’re supposed to
trust to shape their future that seems a bit unapproachable, and so I think that’s what a
takeaway that we should examine from the north
Memphis opposition, is not maybe necessarily the
content of Dr. Atwater’s past but the fact that they
don’t feel like they’ve been fully recognized
in this process. – I mean people I’ve talked
to have said that they did reach out to people they did,
and they kind of have a beef with this idea that they
weren’t asking for input and that all has
to be played out. I think the other part
is one of the issues that Dr. Atwater raised and
other people have raised and we’ve talked about
on the show before. is gentrification and do cities, and this is a national thing
you look at Nashville right now and it’s booming but
there are a lot of people up there who are saying wait
this is sort of pushing out people who aren’t
wealthy, who aren’t rich. It’s becoming a city
for rich people, it happened in some ways in
Atlanta, New York right now. But the other thing then
she brought up genocide, and she brought up this
really awful past that sort of seemed to
a lot of observers, outside of the bounds
of fair criticism. But gentrification I think
is a concern that a lot of people have as
parts of the city see all this booming
development Bill, and that’s an interesting
thing that does come up in the mayor’s
race and so on. – It does, gentrification
and displacement. But the other issue is
also who really speaks for a community, and are
communities in monolithic in what they want to say, want to say and want to
see done in their areas. I don’t think they are,
and I think in an area like north Memphis, and in
particular the area around the old Firestone Tire
and Rubber Company plant which has such a history
of neglect that we’ll go into very soon here
that in those areas you tend to have a lot of ideas for what should happen
in that particular area. In some ways Atwater’s
objections were not really about her plan they were
about some of the desperation in that area and
people who are looking and who are saying why
can’t the Firestone site be used for something? Why can’t that in some
altered way be the economic engine that it once was for
this blue collar community? That, whose future and
fate was absolutely linked to that plant being there? – Yeah and with that and
we talk about the history, let’s go to, and we’ll come
back to some of the 3.0 issues and so on, but you all
are doing a series, that the second part
has just gone out. On redlining, and the
history of redlining in Memphis and you all
got your hands on a map that showed redlining
going back to the 1930s coming out of the New
Deal, redlining plans and the way the Federal
government imposed, enabled lending in some
areas and not others. In cities around the
country is pretty profound. But you all read the map
from Memphis which we’ll take a look at here, but talk about
the series and what it shows. – Yeah so this map came to us from the Digital Scholarship
Lab which is based at the University of Richmond, and what they’re doing is
unearthing redlining maps from the National Archives
and digitizing them and overlaying them with
health outcome data, poverty data, education out-
comes, and you can see with this current information
how these past policies have put communities
at a disadvantage. – And let me walk
the viewers through the map real quickly,
this is from around the 1930s we think, and so
the top, the very top would be the Wolf River,
obviously the Mississippi over to the left, the
end of the color coding to the right is Goodlett and
the bottom of the color coding is Park Avenue, and that red
area that kind of sticks down that’s the Orange Mound
neighborhood, and so to walk people
through Madeline, what red and blue and green
and very distinct differences that were planned for these
different neighborhoods. – So this was a map that was federally commissioned,
used by lenders, mortgage companies, home
constructors to decide which areas of town were
risky for investment, which were not risky
for investment, and we can see just by
the way this map looks and by the way we know
Memphis has grown, red means these are
Black neighborhoods. Blue and green are
wealthier neighborhoods, that saw the benefit of
decades of investment new home construction
and mortgage lending. – And we’ve zoomed in on
the legend, which is just really I mean you know
it’s kind of breathtaking. That the green areas were
best, down to the red areas are hazardous, and then
you’ve got two you know references to white
slum clearance project, that was a public
housing project, we think that was Lauderdale, is that right Bill?
– Lauderdale Court. – And we think what
they’ve referenced here as the negro slum
clearance project, and I apologize for saying
that but I wanted to read it. – Dixie Homes.
– Was Dixie Homes, back to you yeah, Madeline. – And so what we’re
interested in looking at, in High Ground News is
how these policies have handicapped Memphis
in a lot of ways, handicapped black
Memphians in a lot of ways and why this kind of promise
of home ownership right? As a means to obtain
wealth kind of is a loaded sort of question to propose to our historically
black communities. – Yeah those are areas
that you talk about and it’s in the story, I mean
those areas in the red there, they were hit incredibly hard
in the foreclosure crisis, foreclosures hit
everyone in the country but disproportionately
hit poor people and certainly people of color. – I mean more than 60% of
mortgages in a particular south Memphis zip
code are under water, as one of the hardest
hit in the country, and we can see that the
history of that from these communities
being denied lending, being denied the
opportunity to build collateral and
capital prevent them from getting fair mortgages. – And this is 80 years after,
we’re talking about events 80 years after
this map was drawn. – And of course redlining
stopped with the Fair Housing Act in 1968 but these
practices still continue, Wells Fargo, First Tennessee
Bank, Bancorp South, all sued in the last seven years
for discriminatory lending. – Your thoughts
when you saw the map and you think about these
issues we covered now in all our various publications and then relate it to
an 80 year old map. – Yeah it’s a great series,
and I’m glad High Ground is doing that, but what
it really shows I think is it kinda takes it
from like Madeline said from what kind of
happened in the past, in history to what we see now, and what we see now is a lot
of those sub-prime mortgages. All those in the housing
crisis when you know people went underwater,
what happened to those homes is they were sold
to rental owners and what we have now
is almost an epidemic in Memphis of blighted
rental properties, with outside owners
who don’t take care of them, and that’s just
contributing to the blight of the neighborhoods some
of the cleanliness issues that we see on Memphis streets. There’s just a lot of issues
that affect all Memphians that just have kind of risen
out of that, so it’s, yeah. – We had Steve Barlow and folks from Neighborhood
Preservation Inc. on and I think you
referenced them earlier, and I think it’s now
that something like 25% of the home sales in,
residential home sales in Memphis are, or 25%
of the homes in Memphis are rental now, many
of those out of town. Many of those big,
either big hedge funds and public investment companies, or just individuals maybe
locally or in California or wherever who own all these, you were gonna say something. – I was gonna say the number
that we have is actually higher it’s 33% of
all homes in Memphis are now rental, and a lot of
this work with the mapping inequality project is coming, inspired by Neighborhood
Preservation Inc. which is doing great
work on the ground to sort of turn this around. Especially through a new
kind of way to approach mortgage lending, the
Healthy Opportunity Loan Fund which we write about in our
second part of the series. – And High Ground
is, and the map came, just to be clear the map
came from what’s the name and the groups behind it? – So it’s the Digital
Scholarship Lab which is housed at the
University of Richmond and a few other
academic institutions. They’ve put 150 of these
redlining maps already, digitizing them from the
colored pencil version that you saw above, and
turning them into something that one can click on
and manipulate the data. Memphis is not yet digitized,
but it should be up in May. – And when it’s digitized,
you’ll be able to hover over areas and click
and see up to date data on what’s happening
in those areas. Population, things like that. – That’s gonna be
some of the data that Neighborhood Preservation
Inc is adding, so they’re gonna add our
local data on top of this to create a complete picture. – All this kind of
segues into you know conversations about tax
incentives and growth and where growth
happens in Memphis. So we’re talking about
3.0 and its attempt to identify across the city,
areas of investment, areas of growth linking
it all together. But there’s always
this debate Bill about tax incentives and
PILOTs and so on and so forth. Just this past week,
the county commission approved some money for
EDGE which administers PILOTs and other tax incentives
which we’ll talk about the kind of hodgepodge
and the reworking of that hodgepodge of entities that work on this stuff, but what
are those two positions. I think they were funding
two positions the city’s about to vote the city
council’s about to vote about whether it’s also
going to put up 150, 350, $300,000 over three years. Talk about the
expansion of EDGE. – It’s basically a follow
through on the discussions we’ve been having for
about the last year about whether our economic
development strategy works and who it works for. So as part of that EDGE
becomes more aggressive in this and becomes more
detailed in its approach and more responsive to
what leaders need to know in terms of granting
these incentives and so to do that
you have more staff and that’s what the
funding is essentially for, and an interesting discussion on the Shelby County
Commission side that you will probably see
happen on the city side as well, and that is how do
we know this is going to work? How do we know this is
going to give us a better quality product in
terms of evaluating where we spend this money? – There are right now, there
are so many tax incentive projects going on in various
types whether they’re PILOT, they’re TDZ, they’re
TIFF everything from the convention center
hotels, hotel which is you know a lotta money
potentially going there. There are apartment
projects all over certainly the middle of Memphis,
downtown but one of the ones that got some attention
nationally Ryan and you wrote about
this in the 901, was a Wall Street
Journal article, that highlighted, had a kind of
I don’t know how else to say but kind of an absurd
take on the real debate between the city and
Graceland over incentives for Graceland and the
expansion of Graceland. They’ve added the big
hotel, they’ve added a lot of convention and exhibit space and they’re talking about now
adding a manufacturing center. They of course now want to
add some kind of music venue and that gets into the
whole Grizzly’s thing, but this Wall Street
Journal article which I would, I think if
anyone does go and read it. Based on my bringing
it up, I feel bad. But read it with
a grain of salt. Your take on this article,
which one said that Graceland had threatened
to move to another, to Abu Dhabi or to
Nashville, just to move it. That also said then
made these comparisons between Memphis and Nashville
which never goes well in Memphis but this
one was really absurd, and just wildly inaccurate. It talked about the
economic growth differences, that’s real that’s data and
they are growing faster, but kind of implied that
Memphis is giving away tax money, giving
away incentives and hundreds of
millions of dollars and meanwhile Nashville is not. Which is not accurate, but go
ahead, your take on that part? – Well and you’ve gotta
remember Memphis is at this weird little place in
the corner of the state with Arkansas, they
just stole 60 jobs, stole- you know, Coca Cola
consolidated just moved 60 jobs to Arkansas, Olive Branch
Mississippi you know they’ve been
siphoning away jobs. – With massive tax incentives.
– Yeah Nashville doesn’t have any of that and it
is going to take a lot of incentives to keep
people from moving to those areas that,
it’s a very you know, but to go back to the Wall
Street Journal article. I mean it was absurd, but
not so much ’cause of the Wall Street Journal necessarily. They interviewed Joel
Weinshanker who was the Graceland director–
– (Eric) He’s the CEO– – (Bill)
Managing partner of
Graceland Holdings. – And he was the
one who said that, he said that they
have gotten offers from other places, just recently
in some British newspapers he said they have gotten an
offer ten days ago from Japan, who wanted to move
everything over to Japan, all of Graceland and
it’s an absurd idea partly because Elvis, the
Memphis Flyer pointed out, Elvis is buried there,
so are his parents. It would be a nightmare
to think of that– – Right and Bill you
pointed out before the show, they don’t own Graceland,
they don’t own the house. They own everything around
it, they own maybe rights to the names and such,
but they actually, I mean even if there was
the money and interest and desire and need
to brick by brick move the Graceland home, that’s not up to Joel Weinshanker
and company. – No Elvis Presley’s ex-
wife Priscilla Presley and his only child Lisa-Marie
Presley own the house and all of the contents in it. – I’m gonna go back to
the Nashville thing, because it just drives me
nuts and I spent 90 seconds you know Googling
Nashville tax incentives. They got $100 million, and I’m not saying
this is good or bad I’m just saying the
facts, the reality. ‘Cause people talk about
how, well only Memphis does this, this is
not just Memphis. If you look at the
debate that cities had about recruiting Amazon, you
look at New York ultimately backing off all the incentives, every, to some degree
virtually every city in this country is
doing incentives, is in the incentives game
and they are all at war with one another, and
the companies are playing them off of, the Amazon
was a particularly big one. But let me just go through
a couple that I found in 90 seconds, $100
million to Amazon, $15 million from the city,
the rest is from the state. They had tax breaks for Phillips
$70 million for healthcare HCA, the healthcare company,
$44 million to Bridgestone, right now I didn’t realize this. But in Metro-Nashville
government they’ve got a $25 to $35 million shortfall
in their budget in part some council
members would say up there because of all the
incentives they’ve given out. Your companions at
The Tennessean up there did a series of stories on
their economic development entity whose given out hundreds
of millions of dollars, mostly as TIFF loans, but
there was, what was it? I think they had to divert
$31 million of property tax revenue to help pay
off loans to developers according to metro finance
and there was some $8 or $9 million that was
diverted from school funding because of those loans,
now many people in Memphis would love to have the
growth Nashville has had. I’m not sort of picking on
incentives as being bad, I just find it maddening
when people sort of paint particularly a paper as good
as the Wall Street Journal, normally is that
we’re the only people you know having to
do tax incentives. It’s simply not true, you
were gonna say something else, and that’s my rant.
– I was just gonna say, Graceland is the perfect
example of what is wrong with economic development
incentives in my opinion. You know, Graceland is
not going anywhere right? Obviously they’re
not going anywhere, what they’re doing is
they’re trying to drive up the amount of
incentives that they get and that’s exactly what,
you’re talking about why Nashville has all those
incentives, why we have incentives on the books
that are really unnecessary and that’s you know we’ve
had a big discussion recently about changing EDGE,
like Bill mentioned. That’s where that’s coming from, just people are tired of giving
away the farm, basically. – And again New York city is
probably the best example, where Google was putting
up something like a billion dollars
worth of investment in all these people and with
minimal or no incentives and then Amazon came in,
got all these incentives and ultimately there’s so
much pressure, backed out. But just a few minutes
left, I mean I don’t know, you want to try
to tie this back, we’ve talked before in
here about Memphis’s growth and where investment
is happening and where it isn’t happening. And how does this whole
conversation tie into that? – I mean I’d love to
see more projects like the ICED loan that EDGE does. Things that uplift the
small business community and neighborhoods,
especially neighborhoods where major employers
have left like Firestone. I think that small businesses
that employ residents are an economic strategy force in Memphis’s smaller
neighborhoods. – And you know the mayor’s
office and others would probably point to Binghamton where
they’ve got a grocery store, they’ve got some development
going through tax incentives in a really un–
– Yeah that went very well. – And then in south Memphis and you know the
works involved with, I mean there are some
interesting neighborhood level things that are going on,
on the incentive but everybody
involved says look, you’re not going to get,
maybe you’re not going to lose Graceland if you
don’t do incentives, but you’re certainly not
going to get developers to come into
Binghamton right now unless you put some kind
of incentives in place. – I mean, I think the
competition is real, but I also think that
businesses who are on the move and looking to do projects
and trying to figure out where to go, and working
with site consultants. I do think, and this comes
from talking to them. Their philosophy is not
necessarily we’ve got to have it to do this,
sometimes their philosophy on this is well, everybody
else is asking for these, so we feel like we
should ask for it too. – There’s another part of it
that I mean I’ve a good friend whose a commercial
real estate developer who says all these incentives,
and yeah it’s great and all that but it’s
really all about workforce and we don’t have the
workforce, we’ve talked about this stuff so many times on
the show and it’s a broader. There are many parts
to this, it’s not just the tax incentives that
makes these things possible. With just a couple
of minutes left, let’s talk real quickly,
U of M has some funding for water research aquifer research, what’s going on with that Bill? – Yes the institute
at the university that is the basic source
of knowledge about our groundwater, the
aquifers that are the city’s source of water, have
$1 million a year for the next five years to map where
breaches are in the aquifer and look at what our policy
should be in general. Learn more about this
very valuable resource beneath the city,
they’ll begin this year with 5 projects that’ll
expand to 11 projects next year to just
learn more about it. This is a very big effort, it
involves 25 graduate students not only from the university
but other institutions across the country. – It came out of the, when
TVA a couple years ago was drilling into the
aquifer for the new power plant there, and
Protect the Aquifer was formed, and the
Sierra Club got involved and there was kind of a
shift in terms of people suddenly realizing you
can just drill a hole into the aquifer if
you’re a business, or you’re you know,
there’s no regulation there’s not enough study of it. So it came out of
that whole debate. Again just a couple minutes
left, the bikes and scooters. You wrote in the 901 a
little bit about that Ryan, the city is looking at,
does the city need more bike share entities in town. Does it need more or
other scooter companies to come in town, there’s
Bird, there’s Lime Explore Bike Share is the
local bike share people your thoughts? – Yeah so the city announced
that they were going to increase the capacity
for scooters, bikes from 1,750 to 3,000 that’s
gonna happen in June. So I did talk to
the city officials and they said that they think
that is not only doable, they think there’s gonna
be even more in the future. I do wonder whether we’re
becoming too congested in certain parts of the city. But the good news is that the
city’s plans are to not just expand the number in those
areas, midtown, downtown. They want to expand it to
other parts of the city, with payment options
thankfully to make that more affordable, because
they really are not a solution to our
mass transit problems. But they, but the city
does have plans to maybe contribute to that solution. – And back to Memphis
3.0 which is besides a development plan it’s
also a transportation plan, it’ll be interesting to see
what conversation starts happening about MATA and whether the
county’s gonna fund ’em. What’s next for 3.0
I’ll turn to you Bill? Is it go back to council
we assume next week and they are gonna
move forward on it? – Yes they will eventually
first vote on this for the first of three readings. – Okay, that’s where
we are, thank you all. Again go to High Ground news
and check out the stories and the map it’s
fascinating and sad and really interesting stuff. Thank you all for joining
us, join us again next week. [dramatic orchestral music] [acoustic guitar chords]

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